U.S. Soldier MIA from Korean War Identified

The Depart­ment of Defense POW/Missing Per­son­nel Office announced today that the remains of a U.S. ser­vice­man, miss­ing in action from the Kore­an War, have been iden­ti­fied and returned to his fam­i­ly for bur­ial with full mil­i­tary hon­ors.

Unit­ed States Army Sgt. Charles P. Whitler will be buried Sept. 2 in his home­town of Clover­port, Ky. 

In ear­ly Novem­ber 1950, Whitler was assigned to 3rd Bat­tal­ion, 8th Cav­al­ry Reg­i­ment, occu­py­ing a defen­sive posi­tion near the town of Unsan by the Kury­ong Riv­er known as the “Camel’s Head.” Two ene­my ele­ments attacked the U.S. forces, col­laps­ing their perime­ter and forc­ing a with­draw­al. Whitler’s unit was involved in fight­ing which devolved into hand-to-hand com­bat around the 3rd Battalion’s com­mand post. Almost 400 men were report­ed miss­ing or killed in action fol­low­ing the battle. 

In late Novem­ber 1950, a U.S. sol­dier cap­tured dur­ing the bat­tle of Unsan report­ed dur­ing his debrief­ing that he and nine Amer­i­can sol­diers were moved to a house near the bat­tle­field. The POWs were tak­en to an adja­cent field and shot. Three of the 10 Amer­i­cans sur­vived, though one lat­er died. The sur­viv­ing solid­er pro­vid­ed detailed infor­ma­tion on the inci­dent location. 

Ana­lysts from DPMO devel­oped case leads with infor­ma­tion span­ning more than 58 years. Through inter­views with eye­wit­ness­es, experts eval­u­at­ed cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Whitler’s cap­tiv­i­ty and death and researched wartime doc­u­men­ta­tion of his loss. 

In May 2004, a joint U.S.-North Kore­an team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Account­ing Com­mand, exca­vat­ed a mass grave near the “Camel’s Head.” An elder­ly North Kore­an man report­ed he had wit­nessed the death of sev­en or eight U.S. sol­diers near that loca­tion and pro­vid­ed the team with a gen­er­al descrip­tion of the bur­ial site. 

The exca­va­tion team recov­ered human remains and oth­er per­son­al arti­facts, ulti­mate­ly lead­ing to the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of sev­en sol­diers from that site, one of whom was Whitler. 

Among oth­er foren­sic iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tools and cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence, sci­en­tists from JPAC and Armed Forces DNA Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Lab­o­ra­to­ry also used den­tal com­par­isons and mito­chon­dr­i­al DNA — which matched that of Whitler’s sis­ter and niece — in the identification. 

More than 2,000 ser­vice­men died as pris­on­ers of war dur­ing the Kore­an War. With this account­ing, 8,022 ser­vice mem­bers still remain miss­ing from the con­flict. For addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion on the Defense Department’s mis­sion to account for miss­ing Amer­i­cans, vis­it the DPMO Web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call 703–699-1420.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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